A Beetter Way to Upcycle Fabric

Natural Fabric Dyeing with Beets



This activity embeds academic skills into the wonderful craft of natural dyeing. By engaging with the written direction children develop print awareness and number. They develop earth stewardship by exploring creative ways to upcycle old clothing and other fabric. 


Old fabric


5 Beets 






Large Pot


Access to a Stove


Measuring Cups 


Knife or child-safe vegetable choppers 


The following directions on *large* charted paper:

Dyeing with Beets 


              5 beets 



              2 Large Pots

              Old fabric

  1. Add 2 cups vinegar and 8 cups water to large pot and boil 

  2. Add fabric and bring to a simmer; let fabric simmer for 30-60 minutes 

  3. Wash beats and chop

  4. Add beats to second pot and fill with water (just above the top of the beats) 

  5. Cover and bring to boil, let simmer for 30-60 minutes 

  6. Let beat mixture cool

  7. Remove fabric from water/vinegar mixture and add to beat mixture

  8. Let fabric soak in beat mixture for 3 hours-overnight

  9. Remove fabric and let dry




Discuss how old things can be remade and reused

  1. Draw connections to any previous upcycling projects in your classroom 

  2. Discuss importance of upcycling


Unpack Written Directions with Students focusing on targeted math and literacy concepts

  1. Point of the letter Bb in beets; call attention to the difference in upper/lowercase, have children circle Bb in the directions, count how many times Bb appears in the directions. Emphasize the Bb sound as it appears in context. 

  2. Point out the numbers show up throughout the direction. Count each number out to connect the numerals to their quantities (“Add 8  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 cups water”)


Follow directions for dyeing beets 

  1. Allow children to take turns measuring out ingredients 

  2. Have children wash and clean the beats themselves and assist them in chopping

  3. While waiting for the mixture to simmer allow children to engage in other classroom activities or add beats and water to your sensory table so children can wash and explore 


When both mixtures are ready

  1. Have children make predictions about what they think will happen when the fabric is added to the beet mixture

  2. Add different fabrics into the mixture for different amounts of time (30 minutes, 3 hours, overnight).

Questions to Ask

Have you ever eaten beets before? Have you ever used food for something other than eating? 

Why do you think it’s important to use things rather than throw them away? What things have you reused/upcycled? 

What do you think will happen to the white fabric when added to the beat mixture? If you have fabric of other colors ask about them too. What do you think would happen if we added more beets to the mixture? What do you think will happen if we leave fabric in the mixture for a few minutes? Overnight? 

How can we reuse our newly dyed fabric? Washcloths, bandannas, blankets for dolls, ect

Mindfulness Prompt

Have children sit with the beets for a few minutes before engaging with the recipe Call attention to the visual aspects of the beets- the color, the shape. Next call attention to the texture- the roughness, the soil that still clings to it. Smell the beet,  listen to it. Thank the plant for all its many uses. 

Considering Developmental Spectrum

  • Children with autism, language delays, and other developmental delays may need more time to explore the materials before engaging in the structured directions of this project

  • Bring in extra beets/fabric to add to your sensory table and let them spend time using these materials in water play 

Image by FOODISM360